While the decision to integrate Jewish culture into the educational curriculum for the 2020-2021 school year is welcomed as an unprecedented progress, at Maimonides High School it is commonplace. On the benches of this school located in Casablanca, Jewish and Muslim students have cohabited and advocated living together for more than 60 years.
In this structure created in 1950, students learn Hebrew and Arabic, which makes it unique. Today, about 90% of its workforce are Muslim Moroccans.
A cohabitation in which Israeli and Muslim children study side by side and find themselves together in the playground and outside, to families, where they can celebrate both Jewish and Muslim religious holidays.
This fact is not exceptional, because Morocco has always pioneered the preservation of its Jewish memory. Thus, the 2011 constitution enshrines in its preamble the richness and diversity of the spiritual and cultural components (including the Hebrew tributary) that forge the identity of Moroccans.
This culture of tolerance and cohabitation has been protected and promoted by the monarchs of the Alawite dynasty for centuries.
The interest accorded to the preservation and promotion of the Hebrew component of national identity, which King Mohammed VI made it a priority, notably through the rehabilitation of Moroccan Jewish heritage, calling for the restoration of synagogues, shrines and Jewish cemeteries throughout the Kingdom.
The Maimonide High School is part of the network of the Universal Israelite Alliance, called since the independence of Morocco “Ittihad”, which created a dozen schools in Morocco, the first in Tetouan in 1862, said the director of the school, Simon Cohen, in an interview with MAP.
At the beginning of its creation, some Moroccan Muslim pupils were admitted, at a threshold of between 5% and 10%, he said.
On the benches of this high school, one never thinks of difference and respect and tolerance are felt naturally. Values that reflect the uniqueness of the Kingdoms experience in the coexistence of religions and cultures.
For Mr Cohen, this influx of Muslim Moroccans to high school is explained by the common and shared values and the close ties that unite them with their fellow Jewish citizens, who go beyond trade, industry and education, to encompass shared dishes, such as Dafina, prepared on Saturday or even cakes.
“We find certain virtues among Moroccan Muslims such as modesty, humility and human warmth, which is priceless, and that every Moroccan gives off as soon as we see him and talk to him,” said Cohen in a cheerful air.
It is these values that must be taught and maintained, he said, adding “I would like this institution to be an example for other schools here and abroad.”
Beyond rigour, quality of training and highly qualified teachers, which are key to the success of schools, it is the family spirit that reigns in this school, where some 400 students are enrolled.
These efforts, Mr. Cohen described, are a kind of drop in the ocean, noting that “each of us must give our own and contribute, even with the little things we have, to the promotion of mutual knowledge between Jews and Muslims”.
For Ilyas El Houari and Laila Mourtaki, two senior students, the high school represents, for them, a learning space, but also a place for exchange and living together.
“The experience of the High School and the values that have been instilled in us, such as respect for each other and tolerance, will forge our personalities in the future,” they said.
Indeed, the exemplarity of the institution echoed and aroused the admiration of some and the curiosity of others, which led several delegations to visit it, including that of the Arab Parliament.
“I had received a group of Arab parliamentarians and among them were their Palestinian representative, who did not hide his admiration for the values entrenched within this institution,” said Cohen.
For decades, the high school has contributed to the sustainability of good relations between Jews and Muslims, neighbourhood relations, mutual respect and tolerance.
“An example that can be found not only in the major cities of the Kingdom, but also in the villages”, insisted Mr Cohen, expressing the hope that this experience will beMoroccan Muslims and Israelites remains over time.
According to Mr. Cohen, the institution worthily bears the name of the philosopher and lawman Maimonides, who lived in the 12th century, whose writings are in Hebrew and Arabic. Every Moroccan of Jewish denomination actually carries this identity in him.
By Sarah Belabbes (MAP)